Steve Shine knows how to throw a party – and Friday night was no exception.
It was “Christmas on Broadway,” Shine's annual gift to his neighborhood for 13 years now that includes fireworks, courtesy of Frontier Communications, and music supplied by 103.9 Sunny FM.
Just outside his law firm, Shine & Hardin on Broadway Plaza, Shine made his way through lines of people waiting to see Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and to receive cups of free hot chocolate and egg nog, and yes, even free Santa hats.
“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have fun,” one woman told him as she stood in the line waiting to see Santa. She grew up on Park Avenue, she said, not far from the festivities where a Rockefeller Center-style tree stood Friday waiting for its lights to be switched on.
Shine, Allen County Republican Party chairman, had nothing but good words for Democrat Mayor Tom Henry as they took the podium to turn on the lights.
“It's a great neighborhood, is it not?” Shine asked the crowd that he estimated at 4,000 people. “More and more people are beginning to experience Broadway,” he said, and the revitalization of the neighborhood would not have been done without Henry.
After a countdown, the 40-foot Colorado spruce lit up with 30,000 of multicolored lights. “Merry Christmas, everybody!” Shine shouted.
Earlier Friday, Shine marveled at the people gathering as he watched from his second-story office window that overlooks the plaza.
“Look at that crowd,” he said. His holiday extravaganza is the Friday before Thanksgiving “to set the tone for the week ahead.” It is also the first downtown Christmas event for the season, he said.
The holiday vibe continued Friday evening up Broadway to the former General Electric campus, where developers have planned a multiuse development for the old factory buildings.
Electric Works, as the development has been named, was host to a pop-up event with a deejay, food vendors, tables, an area set aside for neighborhood input and suggestions, and changing colored flood lights that washed against one of the grander buildings.
Jeff Kingsbury, a partner in RTM Ventures, said his firm closed on the property in September and “we wanted to do something to signal the change.”
Kingsbury, a Fort Wayne native, and Kevin Biggs, a local developer and partner, spoke to the crowd along with Henry and Eric Doden, CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Ken Lyttel attended the event with his wife, Corinne, and two sons. His father, Mike Lyttel, retired from General Electric, and Ken Lyttel said he carries on the union tradition while working at BAE Systems.
“I think it's an awesome thing that they're going to keep it, reuse it and repurpose it,” Lyttel said about the campus. “I hate to see the old, historic buildings torn down. I want to keep as many as possible.”